It’s one of nature’s most terrifying sights – a tornado slicing across the landscape, cutting a trail of destruction and devastation. Tornadoes rarely appear without warning. They are almost always unleashed by severe thunderstorms.

Environment experts have some advice on ways to prepare and to help keep your family safe.

  1. Be alert

If a storm is approaching, keep your radio on and listen for any alerts issued by the environment officials such as the tornado watch and tornado warning.

A “Tornado Watch” means that an approaching storm could spawn tornadoes. A “Tornado Warning” is issues when a tornado has actually been spotted or detected on radar.

  1. Hide in a safe place.

If at home, head to the basement. If you have no basement, take shelter in a small inside room near the center of the house such as a closet, a bathroom or under a sturdy desk or table. Stay away from outside walls, windows and doors. If you’re caught outside, get as low to the ground as possible. If you’re driving, head away from the tornado’s path and look for a building to shelter in. If the tornado is too close, get out of the car and get down on the ground. Being in a car is one of the most dangerous places to be.

  1. Have emergency preparedness kit at hand.

Every situation is different and may require different strategies. The government may offer more detailed advice on surviving tornados. But they urge everyone to put together an emergency preparedness kit. It should help you and your family get by without heat or electricity for at least 72 hours. It’s simple and easy to assemble.

Using a spare backpack, a duffel bag or a simple cardboard box, you can begin by packing it with 10 basic items such as bottled water, non-perishable food (canned goods or freeze-dried food), a hand-cranked can opener, a first-aid kit, flashlight and spare batteries, a portable radio, special needs items (prescription medications and infant formula), an extra set of keys for both your car and your home, some cash and contact information of your friends and family. Be sure to add anything else that is important to your family.

  1. Make copies of important documents.

Put your important files or documents in a safe and easy to access storage and make photocopies of them including your insurance policy, passports, birth certificates and other paperwork.

  1. Make a home inventory list.

It is also a smart idea to make a home inventory list and maybe photos too of all that you hold near and dear. A good home inventory will also include the replacement costs of all your valuable possessions.

In a nutshell, it’s very crucial to know that taking simple steps ahead of time can make it a lot easier to get your life back together when a tornado hits.